Thursday, 21 January 2010

Dipping into summer eating

Summer brings a different way of eating. Hot weather calls for salads, stovetop meals and dips. Eating out during the day is best at a sunlit restaurant with good air conditioning. I can't stand being stuck in the dark on a summer's day. If I can't go outside I want to at least be able to see the sun. So today I will give you a taste of summer with a tale that starts with buying some delicious sourdough bread and ends with me eating it topped with homemade chutney and dip.

I went to Wholefoods in Lygon St, East Brunswick last week. It is a rare treat that I get to go there as often it depends on traffic, parking and how awake Sylvia is. Wholefoods is not cheap but it offers so many wonderful foods that I can't buy elsewhere, which in turn are full of exciting possibilities. (I can't wait to try the vegan marshmallow mix!)

After a relaxing shopping experience there with Sylvia asleep in the pram, I didn't want to wake her by putting her in the car. Instead I had a walk and ended up at Vege2Go. I had a lovely pumpkin, spinach and tofu pastie. As I sat there I noticed the child-friendly corner with a highchair and toys. I thought it would be a great place for taking kids.

Child-friendly places were on my mind as I had said I would choose a place to go with my mum, my sister Chris and her baby Dash. I also was considering CERES but finally remembered Cooper in a highchair at Hellenic Republic and realised it was the perfect place for us to go. Not only is it a place that caters for all our dietary requirements with superb food but the large windows along one wall ensure the place is flooded with sunlight.

We had fun with both Sylvia and Dash being of an age where they want to grab anything in sight. So the table had two large clear spaces in front of them. We did well in keeping the food away from the babies until Dash grabbed the clay dish with the remains of our chips and tipped them on the floor. What a waste of good Hellenic Republic chips! Sylvia was kept occupied with Dash's mobile phone.

We had a wonderful meal there. Lots of little dishes of food that we loved and I have written about before. Most memorable were the Greek donuts in honey. Both my mum and Chris decided they would be good and not have any dessert but these donuts had been so good at my last visit that I ordered a bowl. Of course mum and Chris had to have a taste and we left singing their praises.

After lunch, we went back to our place where Dash and Sylvia were able to play together. I was glad to have mum here because I wanted her advice. E had found a beetroot and chutney recipe in the Daily Mail newspaper that he had purchased when we left Scotland in December. He cut it out for me and I promised to try it.

I bought the beetroots. Sylvia had a lovely time playing with them before I put them in the fridge. It was only when I got them out that I saw the little rascal had tried to take a bite out of one. (Can you spot her bite in the above photo?) I didn't have enough so had to scale back the recipe. I have done this before so wasn't too concerned. However the recipe said to cook it for an hour til it thickened. After two hours it didn't look like it had thickened and so I put it in the fridge and wondered if it would be useable. Hence I was glad to seek my mum's advice. She liked it and took away a jarful. This gave me a little confidence in it.

After they left I decided I needed to make dip. I had made a lovely creamy tomato dip about a week before that and it had just run out. It was made up of bits and pieces of leftover dairy. I had intended to make an artichoke dip but somehow it morphed into a tomato dip that E and I enjoyed.

If I don't have dip I often am lazy and just eat peanut butter on toast. So it made sense to make Clotilde's bean dip with peanut butter in it. A healthier way to eat peanut butter! I had used up all my sundried tomatoes in the tomato dip but had some chives leftover. So I used those instead. It was quite a thick dip, and could have been made a bit more spreadable with some water, but I enjoyed it as it came. I have found that if dips are too moist they have water pooling in them if left in the fridge too long. There were no such problems with this one.

And it tasted great. I was now reconciled to the beetroot chutney and pleased with my new bean dip. After the wonderful meal at Hellenic Republic I decided a simple dinner was in order. You can see the salad I served with the chutney and dip at the top of this post. It was wonderful. The beetroot and orange chutney was particularly good with salad as it was like a posh tinned pickled beetroot.

I also discovered that the dip and beetroot went well together on the bread I had bought at Wholefoods the previous day. I had been so busy I had forgotten about it and was pleased to find it was still soft with large chunks of olives in it. Just what I need to get me though the heat of summer!

Creamy Tomato Dip
makes about 2 cups

- 125g firm ricotta
- 125g low fat cream cheese
- 70g feta
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup semi sundried tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- ¼ cup chopped chives

Blend ricotta, cream cheese, feta, tomato paste and semi-sundried tomatoes in food processor till smooth. Transfer to a small mixing bowl. Mix in basil and chives. Keeps in fridge for about a week.

White Bean and Nut Butter Dip
Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
makes about 1 cup

- 400 g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 dsstsp peanut butter
- 1 dsstsp sesame butter (a.k.a. tahini or tahina)
- the juice of a lime
- 1 tbsp chives
- 2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
- a good dash each of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika

In a food processor, combine the white beans with the nut butters, spices and the lime juice. Blend until smooth and add a little water if it is too thick. Add the Worcestershire sauce and blend. Tip into a small bowl and stir in the chives. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.

Beetroot and orange chutney
Adapted from the Daily Mail newspaper, 10 Dec 2009
makes about 4 medium jars

- 850g beetroot, peeled and diced
- zest and juice of 2 oranges
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 1 large royal gala apple
- 400g cider vinegar
- 300g raw sugar
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds (I think they were)
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp salt

Place all ingredients in large saucepan and simmer for about 1-2 hours until thickened – mine didn’t thicken until it cooled, hence my long simmering. (The recipe said 1 hour, I did 2 hours.)

On the Stereo:
We'll Meet Again: The very best of Vera Lynn


  1. I love this style of eating - having a plate of vegetables and condiments (do dips count as condiments?) to nibble away on! Am also a huge fan of peanut butter so definitely want to try that bean dip soon.

    Everything you post is always so scrumptious! :)

  2. You always wow me with your abundance! How wonderful that they all go together so tastily!

  3. All of this wonderful, summery food looks devine! I must try the beetroot and orange chutney - I love beetroot, and it looks just gorgeous spread on bread.

  4. Thanks Hannah - I was really impressed with how you could taste the peanut butter but it wasn't as rich (and calorific)

    Thanks Tanna - always happy to have abundance with it comes to salad

    Thanks Cakelaw - the chutney does taste wonderful - I quite enjoy the tasty seediness of it

  5. I've been on a bit of a beet kick lately and this chutney sounds wonderful (if that little nick at the front is Sylvia's attempt at a bite, it's quite small, indeed!). I also love bean and nut butter combos--I often add almond butter to regular hummus (either instead of or in addition to the tahini) and just adore the taste/texture contribution.


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